Critics said Saturday that Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy's decision to discard the constitution approved 15 months ago demonstrates that the army has no intention of returning the country to democracy.
"The army is sick of this talk of democracy. The truth is they don't want elections," said Paul Latortue, a former senatorial candidate in Haiti who lives in exile in Puerto Rico.Namphy said Friday night on state television that the existing constitution included "elements foreign to Haitian tradition" and was "unhappily written and ratified in a climate of passion and emotion." He said a new constitution would be written "taking Haitian reality into account."
"We are experiencing a catastrophe," said Louis Roy, co-author of the constitution and its most prominent defender. "The entire army and its commander-in-chief, Namphy, have committed perjury. They swore allegiance to the constitution a year ago in spite of the faults that they find in it now."
In a June 19 coup, Namphy ousted President Leslie Manigat, a political science professor who was elected four months earlier and is now in exile.
Namphy ruled Haiti between the fall of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986 and Manigat's inauguration two years later. The military officer repeatedly pledged to respect the constitution, approved by 99 percent of Haitians in a March 1987 referendum.
Among the guests invited to listen to Namphy's speech Friday at his palace in Port-au-Prince were former presidential candidates Gerard Phillipe-Auguste, who was Manigat's agriculture Minister, and Gregoire Eugene, now Namphy's adviser on constitutional law.
Also present were two former Duvalier aides, Claude Raymond and Clovis Desinor, and the entire army High Command, including Col. Jean-Claude Paul, recently indicted in Miami on charges of drug trafficking.
"It was a comic and pathetic gathering Friday night at the palace," said Jean-Claude Bajeux, a prominent opposition leader.
"A gang of dinosaurs have emerged from their caves to reassure each other that their treasure would not be threatened by several million human beings on the way to the polls to vote," said Bajeux.
In January, Manigat was declared the winner of army-organized elections boycotted by most Haitians.
When asked to comment on Namphy's allegation that the constitution was inspired by foreign ideas and was contrary to Haitian tradition, Latortue said, "He is saying returning exiles bring undersirable ideas of change. I think Namphy regretted the decision to open the door to exiles after Duvalier left." Meanwhile, at the end of a four-day summit of Caribbean Community leaders in Antigua, Trinidad-Tobago Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson criticized the organization for not condemning Namphy.